[Screen It]


(2018) (voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt) (PG)

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Computer-Animated Comedy: Two garden gnomes join a legendary British detective and his sidekick in hopes of finding and rescuing other gnomes who've been disappearing from gardens across London.
With their human owners having just relocated to London, a bunch of gnomes -- that are frozen when humans are around but otherwise behave like people when they're not -- must contend with living in a new garden. Having previously come from antagonistic families, Gnomeo (voice of JAMES McAVOY) and Juliet (voice of EMILY BLUNT) are now married and have just been selected by their parents as the new leaders of the clan that include Gnomeo's friend Benny (voice of MATT LUCAS) who's sweet on frog figurine Nanette (voice of ASHLEY JENSEN).

But with that new position comes greater work that Juliet takes seriously, thus making Gnomeo believe she's choosing the garden over him. While he's out trying to steal a special flower for her, and with her coming to his rescue, the rest of the gnomes mysteriously disappear. All of which draws the attention of self-proclaimed protector of all gnomes and legendary detective, Sherlock Gnomes (voice of JOHNNY DEPP) and his sidekick, Gnome Watson (voice of CHIWETEL EJIOFOR).

In the past, they would have chalked this up to their arch-nemesis, Moriarty (voice of JAMIE DEMETRIOU), but with him having seemingly perished in the past, the two are perplexed but start following a series of nebulous clues seemingly left specifically for them. That eventually leads them all across the city, interacting with various other characters such as the singing doll Irene (voice of MARY J. BLIGE) and two huge gargoyles, Ronnie (voice of JAVONE PRINCE) and Reggie (voice of DEXTER FLETCHER), who seem intent on snatching up gnomes for some big surprise that's to come soon. With time running out, the married garden gnomes join the detectives in hopes of finding out who's responsible and saving the rest of the gnomes before it's too late.

OUR TAKE: 3out of 10
In "Sherlock Gnomes," the long-awaited sequel to the 2011 "Gnomeo and Juliet," famed Scotland Yard detective Sherlock Gnomes is hard at work following clues trying to find out who's stolen a bunch of garden gnomes. In my opinion, he should have been searching for a better script for this flat offering while also looking for whoever stole the wit and charm that made the original pic fairly entertaining and engaging.

Granted, the first movie was derivative of the "Toy Story" and "Shrek" flicks -- not to mention a certain centuries-old story about star-crossed lovers -- but it knew what made all of those previous offerings work and put a fun and funny spin on them. It wasn't a huge hit, but it made more than enough dough at the worldwide box office (just shy of $200 million) to decorate plenty of yards with the cute little figurines, and nabbed a slightly higher than average score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Alas, both of those figures meant the powers that be decided a sequel was needed, and while I have no idea why it took seven years (a lifetime in terms of animated films due to the target audience growing up and likely losing interest in seeing the follow-up), this one should have been left buried out in the garden.

While there's truth in advertising -- or at least in titles in this case -- the big issue is that the gnome characters from the first film have pretty much been pushed into the background for this story where the title character gets the most attention. At least this one's computer-animated like before so we don't have to be subjected to seeing Johnny Depp playing yet another whacky character as he only provides the voice for him.

In short, the gnomes from the first time around have been relocated by their human owners to a small garden in London where our main characters from before -- Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) -- have just been named leaders of the group by their parents. But with Juliet working hard to make the garden just right, that leads to a slight marital rift, and while the two are away bickering in the city, the rest of the gnomes are snatched up.

Enter Sherlock and his sidekick Gnomes Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who've come to realize this has become a city-wide problem. In the past, they would have attributed this to the former adversary, Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou sounding so much like Ricky Gervais that I was sure it was him), but he seemingly perished in a flashback. Or did he? Nebulous clues are found and the four set out to find out who's responsible. All of which leads them across the city where there's a brief stop in a dollhouse store to hear one doll (Mary J. Blige) belt out a song presumably to help soundtrack sales, what with Elton Johns' greatest hits presence severely truncated this time around as compared to the first.

Two huge gargoyles (voiced by Javone Prince and Dexter Fletcher -- the latter sounding quite a bit like Tracy Morgan) are thrown into the mix, but by the time they arrive no one will care as the comedy ends up as stiff as they do whenever they freeze back into stone figures upon any human sighting.

I understand not wanting to repeat the beats and stylings of the first film and that it was an origins story where this one needs to expand upon that universe, but as directed by John Stevenson from a screenplay by Ben Zazove it just doesn't work. Sherlock and Watson and their strained working relationship story simply aren't that interesting, and the film suffers from the more time they get and the less the other gnomes are afforded.

It might have been fun had the film wrapped around upon itself and made the detective suddenly realize the story and thus the overall film wasn't working as well as before and thus started searching for those behind the camera to offer suggestions about how to solve the problem. But that would have meant realizing there was one, and those responsible for this flop apparently didn't before releasing this on the masses. It might be elementary, my dear Watson, but "Sherlock Gnomes" is a limp follow-up to its fun and charming predecessor. It rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed March 22, 2018 / Posted March 23, 2018

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